Between the lines lie little truths and big mysteries

Courtesy of the author

All I have left is a letter.

It’s just a plain envelope — unmarked by a pen, though creased and marred with tiny tears, battle damage it has accrued as it accompanied me on my trans-Pacific voyages. Inside, folded with two careful creases, is a sheaf of four pages of hospital stationery, each side covered margin-to-margin by writing in a cramped but artful hand. It’s a last message from a mother to the son she was giving up. It’s a last message to me.

In many ways, this letter changed my life when I fished it out of a forgotten…

The most fulfilling part about writing novels is dealing with literary agents. Today, I received a stock rejection letter from an agent I contacted over eight months ago. Needless to…

The family cabin was an important backdrop to my childhood, but I never understood why until now

Photograph of La Casa Alta, provided by the author. Blue skies and beauty.
Photograph of La Casa Alta, provided by the author. Blue skies and beauty.
Courtesy of the author

The old wooden sign — “La Casa Alta,” the high house — was final proof that the journey was over. It was a long voyage, hour after hour on darkened highways clinging desperately to the sides of mountains, threading through one lost little town after another. For a child of six or eight or ten, it was all the longer, and that sign rising out of the brush was as welcome as any I could even imagine.

It’s actually not the sight of the sign or even the house that I remember the most. It always started with a sound…

It’s hard to be honest about our pain — even (or especially) to ourselves.

Photo by Jairo Gonzalez on Unsplash

As a child, I was fond of eavesdropping (don’t be too eager to judge — you’ll have plenty of opportunities to judge me later). At first, I treated it as just another way to learn; as I grew older, it turned into a way to discern people’s honest opinions, as I suspected no one was being forthright with me. I seldom listened in on purpose, but if I happened upon the euphonic tones of someone else’s conversation, I hesitated before making myself known.

On one such occasion, I happened to catch a bit of a conversation between my mother and…


The day of the art walk was an oddly pleasant one, and I strolled with abandon beneath the swirly painting of the Midwestern sky, a heart full of beauty and a head full of acid. I can’t recommend the psychedelic addendum enough, as it complements the experience magnificently — as you browse the exhibits you’ll find that you understand everything, even things that perhaps weren’t intentional parts of said exhibits. You’ll even be positioned to understand the patrons, those amateur art critics massaging their chins and tossing out the odd remark about contrast or symbolism in an effort to justify…

The best subject is the one who works best for you — even if it doesn’t want to work with you.

Photo Captured by the Author

There’s a story behind my first squirrel picture. I was coming home from a different photo opportunity — a little concert in an indie music store, perfectly lit to the eye but it might as well have been half a mile below the surface to the camera. As I passed through a small park, I noticed a single squirrel skulking around in front of an adjacent business. Inspiration struck: As long as I’m carrying this gear bag, why not try to get a shot of the little furball?

Fortune must have favored me because I didn’t scare him off. If…

Andrew Johnston

Writer of fiction, documentarian, currently stranded in Asia. Learn more at

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